I am always excited to learn that someone I know through work or random friendship secretly wants to write. I was always a secret wanna-be writer myself. I would hold that dream tight to my chest and never tell a soul. I read bought and read writing books in secret. I wrote in my journal. I never wrote anything remotely resembling fiction. There were no characters, no plot lines, no descriptive passages. My dream to some day write a book remained just that – a dream.
Then in 2007, I bought a book that seemed to speak directly to my issue. No Plot, No Problem by Chris Baty seemed from the cover to discuss what to do when you wanted to write, but had no story idea. I dove in, looking for the magic formula.
To my surprise, the book was not about how to write a book without a story. It was about National Novel Writing Month. After reading the first few chapters, I was hooked. I signed up for NaNoWriMo, finished my 50,000 words in 30 days and never looked back.
NaNoWriMo taught me the most important lesson anyone who wants to write can learn. It taught me how to shut up, sit down, and just get the hell out of my own way.
Getting up the courage to actually talk about my writing and come out of the closet, so to speak, was an entirely different lesson to learn. It took my 7 years from that first high of winning NaNo, and many NaNos more, to decide to self-publish one of my books. It took me another six months to actually call myself a writer and start to talk about it with friends and family.
As soon as I took that first step and owned my writing dream, I was amazed at the number of people I knew or came to know that “always wanted to write a book.” And I was even more amazed that I could become an inspiration to them. Me? An inspiration? Hardly! I was so full of writerly angst and uncertainty that I could not imagine anyone taking anything positive away from my experience other than perhaps as a cautionary tale.
Now as I polish my second book for its first trip to my editor, I am still finding fellow writers in unlikely places. I always tell them about NaNoWriMo and urge them to just take the plunge. Put one word in front of the other and get out of the way. Magic has a way of taking over in the middle of an impossible challenge.
Inevitably, they will say things like, “oh, I wouldn’t know what to write about,” or “I am so busy, I couldn’t possibly find the time.” Yet they have such a wistful expression as they say this that I can’t help but think NaNo may be just what they need. A chance to get out of their own way and stop making excuses. A chance to spread their wings and just try.
What happens in NaNo can stay in NaNo if you choose, but so many of the wondrous stories that happen in NaNo find their way into the world. And thank the gods of words and stories for that!